Anti-Darwinian Observations Require New Stories
Here are new findings that contradict traditional neo-Darwinian theory.
Darwinians will need to rearrange their web of belief in light of these recent observations. Since evolutionary theory is so flexible, none of these findings will prevent clever Darwinians from rescuing their theory with auxiliary hypotheses, but these are not the kind of things Darwin would have predicted.
Kangaroos chew over evolutionary theory (PhysOrg). Worried-looking researchers in a photo in this article need to “turn back the clock on evolution.” Among the few predictive “laws” in evolutionary theory is Dollo’s Law, that says once a trait is lost, it cannot be regained. Yet the scientists from Flinders University observe kangaroos regaining tooth cusps that their ancestors had lost. This cannot be a case of convergent evolution, they argue. Going into theory-rescue mode, they change the rules to allow something previously forbidden.
Biologists have often discounted the potential for evolution to shift into reverse, dismissing such occurrences as convergent evolution, “where similar features evolve independently in organisms that are not closely related,” explains co-author Flinders Associate Professor Gavin Prideaux.
The researchers argue that “reanimating genetically mothballed features may be ‘allowed’ by evolution when it aligns with pressures that determine an animal’s ecology”.
Beards are for him, not her (The Conversation). Darwin was mighty proud of his theory of sexual selection. It would predict that men evolved beards to attract mates. Wrong, claims Tamsin Saxton, a female lecturer and psychologist from Northumbria U. On The Conversation, she observes that men seem to respect and admire other hirsute men, but women generally do not. At least that might be the case, based on one’s choice of survey results. To rescue sexual selection from this scruffy observation, she proposes that “beards probably evolved at least partly to help men boost their standing among other men.” So is that enough to create genes that allow the best beards to attract the most mates by intimidating the clean shaven? Maybe, if you don’t think about it.
How the human got its big nose (New Scientist). “It’s an evolutionary mystery that’s literally as plain as the nose on your face. Why did our ancestors develop a prominent protruding nose when most primates have flat nasal openings?” They dare not leave this mystery without some kind of adaptive just-so story. But they have none: unless they can blame climate change, “we may have gained our protruding noses and poorly performing nasal passages simply by chance.”
The social gene (Science Magazine). In this book review of a new Harvard work called The Society of Genes, reviewer Joseph Swift swiftly unravels Richard Dawkins’ old orthodoxy of the “selfish gene”. The book gives so many examples of cooperation in nature, from genes to humans, that Dawkins’ 40-year-old metaphor cannot survive the post-genomic era.
In the intervening years, we have come to realize that many of the most interesting and important phenomena in human biology are not caused by any single gene….
“Genes do indeed behave in ways that can be described as selfish,” they concede. “But genes, like humans, do not live in isolation.” It is therefore useful to think about our genes as members of a society in which different genes play specific roles.
Survival of the win-win strategy (Science Daily). By now, most evolutionists know that Darwin’s phrase “survival of the fittest” (adopted from Herbert Spencer) is overly simplistic. More reason to overturn it is supplied in this article that shows the dominant member of a group, such as the alpha male, is not purely selfish, squashing everyone else in the group. “We think that some dominance behaviors are actually winner-winner interactions,” a researcher at NC State says, “increasing the social authority or standing of both participants.” But wouldn’t this, contra Darwin and social Darwinism, tend to perpetuate the less fit?
Trap-door jaw convergence (Current Biology). Examples of so-called “convergent evolution” are legion. Critics of the idea of convergence argue that supposing a blind, aimless process hit on the same solution is tantamount to believing in miracles. This paper adds another example: in trap-jaw spiders, “High-speed predatory strikes have evolved four times independently.” Each time, it required modifications of the head and muscle attachments and other structural changes. Each species would also have to know how to use the modified equipment and pass it on.
Earlier photosynthesis (PhysOrg). The ability to convert light to food is arguably one of the most complex abilities of microbial and plant life. A Darwinist might predict it arose late in evolution. Not; a certain Dr. Cordona from Imperial College London argues that a form of photosynthesis that does not release oxygen is “more ancient than thought, and most living things could do it” when it first appeared. The antecedent to “than thought” is usually other evolutionists, implying that previously-accepted evolutionary notions need another rescue.
Bad selection (Science Daily). The miracle-worker of evolutionary dogma, natural selection, can hurt rather than help evolutionary progress. This article says that selection pressures can “push plants over [an] adaptation cliff,” leading to extinction rather than innovation. It’s not a new idea; J.B.S. Haldane worried about it. Even so, “It runs counter to the most common current thinking that plants are able to cope with evolutionary pressures that strain thousands of points of change in a plant and its genetic make-up at a time.”
The repurpose-driven brain (Science Daily). Lastly, we see that the human brain is over-designed for abstract thinking. “The human brain was initially used for basic survival tasks, such as staying safe and hunting and gathering,” this article begins. “Yet, 200,000 years later, the same human brain is able to learn abstract concepts, like momentum, energy and gravity, which have only been formally defined in the last few centuries.” To account for that, some evolutionists at Carnegie Mellon are suggesting that the brain somehow is able to “repurpose itself” for new things like math and science. What mutation caused a blind process to give a creature something it wouldn’t encounter for 199,500 years?
Evolutionists know darn well that their theory doesn’t work in its original Darwinian form. Over the last 157 years, Darwin’s disciples have accumulated so many rescue devices, the devices have become more significant than the theory itself. Evolutionism is a veritable junkyard of theory rescue devices. The only continuity with Darwin comes from the Darwin seals of approval (little stickers of his bearded face) on all the ring buoys, wrenches, funhouse mirrors and other machinations concocted by his disciples to keep his program of methodological naturalism looking operational, whether by distraction, obfuscation or imagination. The lapdog media are part and parcel of this whole enterprise to keep biology naturalistic, no matter the cost.